The Anaheim Ducks’ 2022-23 season kicks off in just a couple of days. With his first offseason as general manager now in the past, Pat Verbeek has been taking the necessary steps toward rebuilding his team into a contender. How will they fare this season? I was joined by fellow Ducks contributors Charlie Hiller and Corey LeBlanc to discuss a myriad of topics regarding the upcoming season.
Who Will Be the Ducks’ MVP?
Charlie – John Gibson
Before last season, John Gibson has been the team’s MVP throughout the rebuild. Improvements to the defense will help lighten the massive workload he’s had to endure.
Corey – Troy Terry
Troy Terry is primed to build on his 37-goal performance from last season and can definitely steal a few wins with his elite scoring touch. I am expecting at least a couple of memorable moments from him during this campaign.
Derek – Troy Terry
Last season’s team leader in goals and points is looking to follow his breakout season with an even stronger performance this season. With some new faces brought in this summer, the Ducks’ top six should look a lot stronger and in turn, so should Terry.
Which Player Will Have a Breakout Season?
Charlie – Jamie Drysdale
I’m really excited to watch Jamie Drysdale this season. His skating ability and vision have been as advertised. Now entering his second full season, I’d anticipate his skill set to translate into more production.
Corey – Sam Carrick
Drysdale is a top candidate for a breakout year, for sure. Though, Sam Carrick is on my radar as well. A 2010 Draft pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs, he could make an impact upon his return from hip surgery.
Derek – Jamie Drysdale
I’m also going with Drysdale for my pick. He held his own while getting his feet wet in his first NHL season and played some tough minutes down the stretch.
After spending most of last season with Hampus Lindholm, he’ll be paired with newcomer Dmitry Kulikov this season. Having a defensive-minded partner once again should give Drysdale the freedom to be more available as an offensive option and the experience he gained last season should help him as well.
Which Defenseman Will Be the Team Leader in Points?
Charlie – Drysdale
Continuing my excitement for Drysdale this season, one of my bold predictions is that he leads the defense in assists. My one concern is that he will likely cede power play duty to John Klingberg, minimizing his opportunities.
Corey – John Klingberg
The Ducks brought Klingberg in this summer to play big minutes and quarterback the power play as he did during his years in Dallas. He will be the go-to guy in many situations, including 3-on-3 overtime.
Derek – John Klingberg
After being the power play quarterback for the majority of his tenure with the Dallas Stars, Klingberg is now coming to a team that 1) struggled on the power play the last several seasons and 2) doesn’t have a true man advantage quarterback on their blue line. Drysdale, Kevin Shattenkirk and Cam Fowler all took turns as the top defenseman on the power play last season but none of them have stood out as a mainstay option. That’s about to change with the addition of Klingberg.
The Swede will have offensive weapons in Trevor Zegras, Ryan Strome and Terry at his disposal to work with on the first unit and the likes of Frank Vatrano and Adam Henrique on the second unit. It’s not hard to envision “Klinger” serving up a couple of tasty dishes to his forwards on special teams all season long. He’ll also be playing top pair minutes alongside Fowler and by default should have many more opportunities to earn points than the rest of his defensive compatriots.
Who Will Lead the Team in Goals?
Charlie – Terry
Terry led the team last year with 37 goals, 14 more than runner-up Zegras. If Terry isn’t leading in goals, it would mean either that he regressed or another forward took an unexpected leap forward.
Corey – Terry
Terry is my guy this season. He has reached the prime of his career and I have no reason to believe he will not be able to build on his feats from last year.
Derek – Frank Vatrano
First, let me say that I think Terry is a fine goalscorer and he’ll definitely get his. But if the preseason is any indicator, I believe he will be back to his playmaking ways with Strome aiding him down the middle and finishing off some of those chances as opposed to vice-versa.
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A big criticism of the Ducks in seasons past has been that they don’t get the puck on goal enough. Enter Vatrano. He loves to shoot from anywhere and everywhere. Not every single one of those shots is going to go in, but he’s going to create a ton of scoring chances. And more often than not, they’re going to hit the back of the net.
Who Will Lead the Team in Points?
Charlie – Trevor Zegras
As a rookie, Zegras’ 61 points were second to only Terry among Ducks players. Does he become a point-per-game player in his second season? I would expect it to be close, but anything close would be good enough to lead the Ducks.
Corey – Trevor Zegras
It’s Zegras if he can stay healthy. It is hard to deny his skill with or without the puck and his ability to think outside the box. As a side note, he will be in on 90 percent of Terry’s goals this season.
Derek – Trevor Zegras
It’s a close call for me between “Z” and the one that members of the team often refer to as “Timmy”, but the power play ran through Zegras for the most part last season and should remain the same in 2022-23. The 21-year-old led the team in power play goals (nine) and was second among forwards on the team in power play assists (eight).
With Ryan Getzlaf now retired, Zegras steps into the spotlight as the team’s premier playmaker and should be in the thick of things every single game, whether it’s at even strength or on the man advantage. That for me gives him the edge over Terry when it comes to points.
Where Will the Ducks Finish in the Standings?
Charlie – Sixth in Pacific, 24th in NHL.
We should see continued improvement for the Ducks, even if it doesn’t reflect in the standings. While the top six is an upgrade from last year, depth remains an issue. If they go through with trading Klingberg and Kulikov at the deadline, depth will be an even greater concern.
Corey – Fifth in Pacific, Competing for Wild Card Berth
Overall, this is a young group with nothing to prove and no ceiling in terms of potential. It is looking as though only a few teams are a lock for the postseason in the Pacific. I say the Ducks finish fifth in the division and duke it out for a final wild card spot in the Western Conference.
Derek – Sixth in Pacific, Bottom-10 in NHL
I don’t know exactly where the Ducks will finish in the overall standings, but I have a hard time believing that this team is destined for anywhere but the NHL Draft Lottery, even despite the offseason additions. I’m pinning their ceiling as a second wild card team with most of their season dependent on how Gibson performs in net.
Another February spent toward the bottom of the standings could see veterans on expiring deals like Klingberg, Kulikov and Anthony Stolarz shipped out, which will likely send them further down the standings.
Which Player Needs to Have a Bounceback Season?
Charlie – Max Comtois
I think that Maxime Comtois is capable of being the Ducks’ top left-wing, but not if he repeats his disastrous 2021-22 season. As a restricted free agent in the offseason, it’s not unreasonable to suggest he is playing for his future in Anaheim.
Corey – Jakob Silfverberg
Jakob Silfverberg is returning from a blood clot that prematurely ended his 2021-22 season and is still trying to find his footing after having the last two seasons cut short (hip surgery in April 2021 ended his 2020-21 season). He was not having an outstanding year by his standards up to that point anyways. He should be looking to bounce back to his former self, which offensively is in or around the 40-point mark.
Derek – Max Comtois
Like Charlie, I too think that Comtois is capable of much more than the six goals and 16 points that he put up a season ago. It was a really tough campaign for him but he’s shown flashes in the preseason that he could get back to the level that he was at in 2020-21, when he scored 16 goals. I’m not sure he’s the pure goalscorer some envision him being, but he has the tools to be a 40-point player at the very least.
Beginning of the Season Just Days Away
The Ducks’ season and home opener are this Wednesday, Oct. 12 at 7 pm PST against the Seattle Kraken. The Kraken made some offseason additions of their own and will hope to do better than they fared in their inaugural season. A win for the Ducks in their first game would do well to set the tempo for the rest of the season.